Category Archives: Featured Organizations

Featured Organization: ISI Claremont Society

Last fall the issue of political diversity took center stage at the Claremont Colleges as a result of two separate events. The first was the release of a 40-year study that measured the political attitudes of students and faculty at the 5Cs. The study found that over 70 percent of CMC students, and over 90 percent of students at the other colleges surveyed, identify as Democrats – a rate far above that of the American voting population. Of the 532 Claremont Colleges tenured faculty, there are only 16 registered Republicans (half of which come from CMC). The survey highlighted the glaring lack of political diversity at each school, with little to no response from any of the 5C administrations.

Shortly thereafter, conservative pundit George Will was disinvited from Scripps College, where he was slated to give a speech as part of the Malott Public Affairs Program. The program typically brings in one conservative speaker a year, noting that  “a range of opinions about the world – especially opinions with which we may not agree, or think we do not agree – leads to a better educational experience.” Will was disinvited because of a column he wrote that shared his conservative view of the college sexual assault adjudication process.

The Malott Program’s failure to uphold its commitment to bring in speakers with opposing viewpoints, and the 5C administrations’ lack of effort to address these concerns, sparked the formation of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) Claremont Society. Through the ISI Claremont Society, students are able to access the ISI Speakers Bureau to bring in renowned conservative scholars to campus, connect with other ISI Society members, and attend national conferences and educational seminars.

The ISI Claremont Society’s inaugural event will feature Pete Peterson, the 2014 Republican candidate for California Secretary of State and interim director of Pepperdine’s School of Public Policy. The event will be held on Tuesday, September 15 at 6pm in the Athenaeum Parents Dining Room. If you would like to attend, or if you would like to get involved in the ISI Claremont Society this year, please email claremontisi@gmail.com.


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Photo courtesy: Pete Peterson.

Featured Organization: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA)

The CMC site of the student-run Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, sponsored by the IRS, began operations last spring, and in the year of its inception filed 60 tax returns and helped community members refund a total of $46,000. The group is composed entirely of volunteers who have committed their time to learning the tax preparation material and assisting members of the community. Every Saturday starting on February 7th, VITA will offer walk-in services from 9:00AM-12:00PM to anyone whose annual gross income is less than $53,000, double for couples filing jointly. Exact dates, times, and locations are listed below.

2015 VITA Walk-In Dates, Times, and Locations

Saturday, February 21, 2015

9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

KRV Kravis Center 164

Saturday, February 28, 2015

9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

KRV Kravis Center 164

Saturday, March 07, 2015

9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

RN Roberts North 15

Saturday, March 28, 2015

9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

KRV Kravis Center 164

Saturday, April 04, 2015

9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

KRV Kravis Center 164

Saturday, April 11, 2015

9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

KRV Kravis Center 165

When coming in to get your tax return(s) filed, please bring the following items:

  • Proof of identification (picture ID)
  • Social Security cards for you, your spouse and dependents or a Social Security Number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration or
  • Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) assignment letter for you, your spouse and dependents
  • Proof of foreign status, if applying for an ITIN
  • Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents on the tax return
  • Wage and earning statement(s) Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, 1099-Misc from all employers
  • Interest and dividend statements from banks (Form 1099)
  • Information for other income
  • Information for all deductions/credits (for example, 1098-T for education credits)
  • Affordable Health Care Statements (1095-A, B, or C)
  • A copy of last year’s federal and state returns if available
  • Proof of bank account routing numbers and account numbers for Direct Deposit (such as a blank check)
  • Total paid for daycare provider and the daycare provider’s tax identifying number (the provider’s Social Security Number or the provider’s business Employer Identification Number) if appropriate
  • To file taxes electronically on a married-filing-joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms

Please do not wait until the deadline to file your taxes!

For more information, or if you would like to join VITA, please contact Lina Pan at lpan16@cmc.edu, or follow the CMC VITA Facebook page for updates at the following link: https://www.facebook.com/CMCVITA.

Featured Organization: Liberty in North Korea (LiNK)

10805217_4780597808301_1082591793_nLiberty in North Korea (LiNK) at the Claremont Colleges is an organization that seeks to bring awareness to the issues faced by people living under the rule of the North Korean regime. It is part of a larger international non-profit of the same name that has focused on rescuing North Korean refugees from Northeast China,many of whom live in hiding and risk repatriation at the hands of the Chinese authorities. Another major goal of LiNK is to change the dominant narratives that are disseminated in the mainstream media on North Korea and its people. It was this dimension of LiNK’s mission that inspired Julie Kim CMC ’17 to start a Claremont chapter of the organization. “I think there is a tendency in the media to focus too much on politics,” says Kim regarding coverage of North Korea. “There should be more emphasis on how we can empower the North Korean people.”

While many students in Claremont may have been taught to see the North Korean problem through the lenses of international politics or nuclear nonproliferation, Kim sees it primarily as a human rights issue. She also believes that it is important for the international community to view North Koreans not as powerless, oppressed people, but as agents of bottom-up change in their country.

Keighley Overbay HMC ’17 expressed similar sentiments when talking about her motivation for joining LiNK at the Claremont Colleges. She describes how, instead of merely pitying the people of North Korea, LiNK brought a refreshing perspective to the scene by appreciating their strength.

“I think LiNK really embodies that attitude by focusing on the citizens and their stories, which are really important to understand and help the people from that country,” said Overbay.

However, even as organizations like LiNK seek to empower North Koreans at the grassroots, the situation for the North Korean people remains undeniably harsh. Currently, the Kim regime punishes three generations of a dissident’s family members for “political crimes” committed against the state. Korean refugee outflow has fallen since the rise of Kim Jong Un, indicating a crackdown on defectors in the last few years. Those who do manage to escape to neighboring China often become victims of sex trafficking or deportation. Once beyond North Korean borders, the typical refugee faces a 2,500km journey along a modern underground railroad to Southeast Asia where their resettlement either South Korea or the U.S. is arranged. Due to the highly secretive nature of their work, LiNK Field Coordinators, who are responsible for refugee rescue, do not have their names or photos listed on the LiNK website. As a result of the logistical challenges of arranging such a rescue, it currently costs LiNK an estimated $3,000 USD to rescue a single refugee.

Still, Claremont Colleges LiNK Chapter President Julie Kim remains confident that the Claremont community can make important contributions to the North Korean cause. Already, the organization has hosted a speaking event as part of LiNK’s Jamadang Tour aiming to educate the public about North Korean millennials who have begun subverting the North Korean regime through their use of the black market. With further fundraising, the Claremont chapter of LiNK plans to organize future events, and possibly even fund a refugee rescue. As Kim points out, the cumulative effect of individual contributions can make a significant impact.

“LiNK recently started a campaign to rescue 200 refugees,” says Kim. “It is only through individuals like us that this kind of change is made possible.”

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Liberty in North Korea at the Claremont Colleges meets every Monday at 9pm at International Place. For more information, contact Julie Kim at jkim17@cmc.edu.

Image Sources: NASA, LiNK

 

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LiNK event this Sunday:

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Featured Organization: Young Americans for Freedom

As a conservative in an overwhelmingly liberal college environment, it can often be difficult to engage in intellectual discourse with like-minded individuals. Two CMC students, Cameron Ridley ’15 and Kelsey Heflin ’16, recognized this problem, as well as the conservative movement’s inability to “provide an easily graspable alternative to the strong rhetoric of the Left.” Together they established the CMC chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, a non-profit group devoted to advancing conservative ideas.

Young Americans for FredomThe Young Americans for Freedom, or YAF, sponsors conferences and connects its members with educational and career opportunities within the conservative community. According to Ridley, YAF “touts itself as a think tank that develops the ideas which politicians may then use to bolster their positions.” The CMC chapter of YAF plans to organize activities including movie showings, debates, and participation in political campaigns.

“Members also will receive the chance to attend funded YAF conferences, which provides good networking opportunities since it is affiliated with the larger national Young Americans Foundation. At the conferences, students will learn from top professors and leaders in the Conservative Movement and discover ways to champion conservative principles,” Heflin said.

By attending conferences and other educational events, YAF members will be able to enhance the level of discourse within CMC classrooms as well as the wider 5C community. Although YAF is currently listed as an official CMC club, it welcomes members from all the Claremont Colleges.

“We want to foster an environment where conservative-minded students can join and share ideas. We hope to promote conservative principles on campus and provide a place for free discussion and activism to occur among college students,” Ridley said.

Anyone interested in learning more about YAF or joining the CMC chapter can access the “CMC Young Americans for Freedom” Facebook page for meeting information and other opportunities.

Contact:
Cameron Ridley, Chairman: cridley15@cmc.edu
Kelsey Heflin, Vice-Chairman: kheflin16@cmc.edu

Upcoming Meetings (5:45-6:25 pm in Kravis Center room 109):
– Thursday, October 23, 2014
– Thursday, October 30, 2014
– Thursday, November 13, 2014
– Thursday, November 27, 2014
– Thursday, December 11, 2014

Featured Organization: Students for Syria

By: Chris Gaarder and Derek Ko

Seventy thousand dead. Untold hundreds of thousands wounded. Millions displaced. These are the numbers behind the two-year old Syrian crisis. Though the figures are but sanitized stand-ins for real-world horrors, they have understandably concerned a great number of people. Among those moved by the crisis are Melissa Carlson CMC ‘13 and Sara Birkenthal CMC ’13 who, on the suggestion of CMC International Relations Professor Ed Haley, founded Students for Syria in February 2013. The group has two primary goals. First, Students for Syria hopes to, as Carlson said in an interview with the CI, make a “more human connection” between the Syrian conflict and 5C students. Second, as stated in their petition, they hope to put pressure on “President Obama and the United States Congress to stop the killing and help Syrians attain self-determination.

In pursuit of their first goal, Students for Syria is launching a 5C campaign that includes a Facebook page, an upcoming poster campaign, an informational video and various campus events. The students’ campus campaign is meant to, as Carlson put it, “make noise” so people are compelled to confront the serious consequences of inaction on the part of the international community.

For their second objective, Students for Syria plans a multi-pronged effort to, again, “make noise” and build enough domestic pressure on Washington to make the President and Congress act. To that end, the Students for Syria has launched a petition on Change.org that currently has over 200 signatures (which notably constitutes only about a third the number that the “Claremont McKenna College Administration: Take Action to Protect CMC Social Culture” petition has garnered). Still, the student leaders of the organization have big plans for the future, including expanding to other universities in California. Carlson also mentioned a Students for Syria delegation to Washington D.C. as a possibility in the more distant future. There, they would hope to meet with leaders of nonprofit organizations, congressional leaders and representatives from the Obama Administration to make the case for Washington to give greater weight to the Syrian crisis.

However, the fledgling student organization has already run into a few roadblocks. Budgetary constraints aside, they were recently forced to change a line in their petition calling for “military force if necessary” because of the controversy and complexity U.S. intervention would entail. American war-wariness is understandable, especially following long and drawn-out interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq that have not yielded clear-cut victories in the eyes of the American public. Students for Syria felt that the backlash from specifying armed intervention as an option would only distract from their objective of ending the Syrian crisis. The organization now makes it quite clear they are simply calling for international action to end the bloodshed and not taking a specific position on what type of support should be given. Putting the issue of armed intervention (or lack thereof) aside, there still remains a serious division in foreign policy circles over the best long-term strategy in addressing the Syrian crisis.

For expert opinions on the subject, we interviewed Professor Haley and fellow CMC International Relations Professor Jennifer Taw. Although they both agreed that breaking the Assad regime and producing a negotiated settlement was imperative, they had very different perspectives on how the U.S. should approach the situation.

Haley specifically advocates for U.S. aid to Syrian rebel groups that best represent Western interests and could be trusted most to bring Syria through a democratic transition without initiating a mass-scale retaliation against the ruling minority. He points out that the Iran and Russia are already propping up the Assad regime, while Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States are sending aid to various groups in the opposition. Britain and France appear likely to send aid to their favorite rebel groups in short order. Meanwhile, the U.S. has largely kept out of the crisis. If the U.S. does not sponsor a rebel faction, Haley does not think it will have the “persuasive voice” that other international actors would have gained by the time the regime crumbles or is brought to the table to begin negotiations.

In addition to the importance of enhancing the influence of America among rebel groups through aid, Haley emphasizes that time is a crucial consideration. Unfortunately, according to Haley, “the longer it goes on, the worse it becomes for U.S. interests.”  The longer the crisis continues, the more who will be killed, wounded, displaced, or otherwise harmed. A longer crisis will only develop deeper divides within Syrian society, and more fixed hostilities. Moreover, the victory of either of the Islamists backed by Saudi Arabia or the current regime backed by Iran and Russia would not serve U.S. interests or humanitarian concerns particularly well.

Taw agrees that a negotiated agreement between all involved parties is ultimately the preferable solution to the crisis, but is careful to note that if not done properly, bringing a quick end to the current conflict could simply set the stage for  “a new, and prolonged second act in which blood continues to flow, jihadists rise to the fore, and the region as a whole splits as it splits within Syria.

For Taw, even the idea that the U.S. could force the international community to act is doubtful. Already, “The U.S. can’t even prevent other countries from arming and otherwise supporting the regime,” and if a U.S. proxy were to succeed in the short term by way of force, “such an effort would undoubtedly be followed by a set of ongoing insurgencies similar to Iraq’s.” Taw is also skeptical about the notion that there are rebel groups that the U.S. can in fact trust in the long term. In other words, Taw views the U.S. capacity to influence the conflict in a positive direction as fundamentally limited.

The situation in Syria is by all accounts a tragedy. There are no easy solutions or clear historical blueprints to follow. In the post-Cold War era, we have seen successful cases of international intervention (Bosnia), cases where many argue we should have had international intervention but did nothing (Rwanda) and cases where the West did intervene, with at best, mixed results (Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq). Will the U.S. take action beyond providing humanitarian aid? That remains to be seen. Can we, successfully? That remains an open question.

However, one thing is certain: whether U.S. intervention would be a soaring success, a complete disaster, or some murky mix of the two, time is rapidly running out for the Syrian people. It is about time that American policy-makers and students alike begin serious, public discussion on about the crisis.  Whether one is a supporter of U.S. action or a staunch non-interventionist, Students for Syria is a force worthy of attention.